Archive for September, 2006
In other words, we humans are now discovering massive emissions of methane from under Siberian lakes, emissions resulting from the global warming we’ve caused.
I first read of the permafrost-methane issue in Stephen Harding’s new, and totally awesome, Animate Earth. I’m not just plugging this because it’s the latest of Chelsea Green’s terrific books. I’m plugging it because Harding writes well and explains stuff well, and his book is a great introduction to Gaia theory. Objectively speaking, I am a huge fan of this book and hope that all of you will read it. (Btw, Harding will be at Bioneers by the Bay. Will you?)
Study Says Methane a New Climate Threat
Sep 06 8:06 PM US/Eastern
By SETH BORENSTEIN
AP Science Writer
Global warming gases trapped in the soil are bubbling out of the thawing permafrost in amounts far higher than previously thought and may trigger what researchers warn is a climate time bomb.
Methane _ a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide _ is being released from the permafrost at a rate five times faster than thought, according to a study being published Thursday in the journal Nature. The findings are based on new, more accurate measuring techniques.
“The effects can be huge,” said lead author Katey Walter of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks said. “It’s coming out a lot and there’s a lot more to come out.”
Scientists worry about a global warming vicious cycle that was not part of their already gloomy climate forecast: Warming already under way thaws permafrost, soil that has been continuously frozen for thousands of years. Thawed permafrost releases methane and carbon dioxide. Those gases reach the atmosphere and help trap heat on Earth in the greenhouse effect. The trapped heat thaws more permafrost and so on.
“The higher the temperature gets, the more permafrost we melt, the more tendency it is to become a more vicious cycle,” said Chris Field, director of global ecology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, who was not part of the study. “That’s the thing that is scary about this whole thing. There are lots of mechanisms that tend to be self- perpetuating and relatively few that tend to shut it off.”
Some scientists say this vicious cycle is already under way, but others disagree.
Scientists aren’t quite sure whether methane or carbon dioxide is worse. Methane is far more powerful in trapping heat, but only lasts about a decade before it dissipates into carbon dioxide and other chemicals. Carbon dioxide traps heat for about a century.
What I don’t understand is how there could be any debate over the relative badness of methane and CO2. If methane acts like a worse greenhouse gas while existing as methane, and then decays into CO2, then how could CO2 be worse overall? CO2 is as bad as itself. Methane adds a decade of super-badness to the century of CO2’s badness. 10+100 is more than 100, especially when really what they’re saying is that it is (10X23)+100. Not that any of this really matters in a philosophical sense, but the supposed debate strikes me as odd.
Iraq torture ‘worse after Saddam’
Thursday, 21 September 2006
Torture may be worse now in Iraq than under former leader Saddam Hussein, the UN’s chief anti-torture expert says.
Manfred Nowak said the situation in Iraq was “out of control”, with abuses being committed by security forces, militia groups and anti-US insurgents.
Bodies found in the Baghdad morgue “often bear signs of severe torture”, said the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq in a report.
The wounds confirmed reports given by refugees from Iraq, Mr Nowak said.
He told journalists at a briefing in Geneva that he had yet to visit Iraq, but he was able to base his information on autopsies and interviews with Iraqis in neighbouring Jordan.
“What most people tell you is that the situation as far as torture is concerned now in Iraq is totally out of hand,” the Austrian law professor said.
Branson Pledges Billions to Fight Global Warming
September 21, 2006
The New York Times
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Sir Richard Branson, the British magnate and adventurer, said today that all of his profits from his five airlines and train company, projected to be $3 billion through the next 10 years, would be invested in developing energy sources that do not contribute to global warming.
Seattle had “teamsters and turtles”. I can’t think of a similarly assonant phrase, but the new combo these days is treehuggers and the Godly crowd.
Ratner on Democracy Now
Attorneys Argue Senate Bills Would Allow for Lifelong Detention Without Trial, Torture Without AccountabilityAs the debate on Capitol Hill continues over the Bush administration’s plan for the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, we take a look at what is not being discussed: how both proposed bills in the Senate strip away the right to habeas corpus and cut back the ability of rape survivors of to hold their perpetrators accountable. We speak with Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. [includes rush transcript] New details have been revealed on the Republican divide over the Bush administration’s plan for the treatment of prisoners in US custody. Newsweek magazine reports the administration wants to maintain at least seven existing CIA interrogation methods for use against high-level detainees. The techniques include induced hypothermia; long periods of forced standing; sleep deprivation and so called “attention slapping.”
The administration is facing resistance from three key Republican Senators on the Armed Services Committee: John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner. The three helped pass a measure last week affirming Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits inhumane treatment.
In his spare time, Greg is not only finishing up a very super-duper new book for Chelsea Green, The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook, he’s also spreading the sane- and local-energy gospel through op-eds in the local papers. Latest score is in the Valley News this past Saturday (I think). (The Valley News is the daily paper in the Upper Valley, i.e., in the White River Junction VT - Lebanon NH - Hanover NH region.)
Energy choices for communities
Autobloggreen reports on a universal carbon-into-diesel development.
From sewer sludge to affordable clean dieselResearchers from UC Riverside and a small company announced a new process yesterday that allows them to create diesel from pretty much anything that contains carbon. The process can convert sewer sludge, wood, agricultural waste, plain old trash, and even plastic into a gas, and then turning the gas into high-quality diesel. While other gasification processes have been developed in the past, this process promises to be significantly more cost effective. The gasification is achieved by using hydrogen and steam at nearly 1,500 degrees to break apart the feed stock into a gas. Traditional gasification methods use oxygen instead of hydrogen and require large amounts of energy. The new process is also a lot faster, adding to the cost savings. While the process of gasification normally takes about an hour, the new process reduces this to about 6 minutes, a tenfold improvement. The current production cost is about $1 a gallon, but retail would be higher. A pilot plant will be built, and it will be able to convert 10 tons of waste per day into fuel. Getting rid of waste, and producing fuel at the same time sounds like a win-win situation to me.
I’d like to know what the net energy is here. 1,500′ (I’m assuming Farenheit) is pretty durn hot and makes for a demanding production process. Plus you apparently need free hydrogen; from electrolysis? Anyone know where the cheapest, least energy demanding hydrogen come from? (That’s not a trick or rhetorical question. I’m really asking.) Oh, I see from the comments on the Autobloggreen page that, one guys says, commercial hydrogen comes from fossil fuels–probably stripped out of natural gas. That sounds about right.